09 Feb Me, Myself and Self-Portraiture.
This post is not technical, because, to be honest, I’m not a technical person. My art is driven by heart. Of course, I had to learn a few things here and there to be able to bring my vision to life, but technical conversations often put me to sleep. I rather have deep emotional ones. I’m not good at small talk. If you ever ask me, how am I, you will probably get an honest answer, and that, I’ve learned, can make some people a little uncomfortable. So, if you’re here for a tutorial or any new technical trick about photography, this is the wrong post for you, but I invite you to stay for a while if you’re willing to know a little bit about my journey into art and why photography is so important to me.
I discovered my passion for photography at the end of 2011. It was the right time for me. I knew my marriage was over. Love dies way before the word “divorce” is even brought up.
At the time, I really needed an outlet. I dedicated all my time to learning as much as I could about photography and photoshop. I discovered and joined a great community of photographers in Google plus who ended up being a huge part of my life. I’ll write more about that in a little bit, so stick with me.
As my marriage was ending my son was also diagnosed with High functioning autism. I’ve written a few posts about it. I decided to be open about my son’s diagnosis because, at the time of his diagnosis, I felt so lonely and confused and really had no idea of what the universe had in store for us. It was a very scary time.
As time passed by, I tried to inform myself as much as I could about autism to be able to help my son. He kept making so much progress. Most of my biggest fears started to fade away. I felt thankful and so proud of my little boy, he is my true hero. I knew I wanted to give back. I didn’t ever want anybody to feel as lonely and scared as I felt when my son was diagnosed. I wanted to let parents know that everything will be ok. By no means, I’m saying I’m an expert on the topic, but I can openly talk about our experience and what have worked for us and what have not.
Yes, I know, you may think this has nothing to do with photography, but bear with me here.
I learned about light, posing, photoshop and everything photography related by experimenting with self-portraiture. Then, I used all my knowledge with clients and collaborations while I built up my portfolio. But there was a little person always watching my every move. My son. At first, he didn’t care much about being in front of the camera, but little by little he got more and more interested in it. Then, he started coming up with concepts and we started creating things together. To date, those are my favorite projects and it’s something I’m truly passionate about. Not only creating with my kids but with any kid. There’s nothing more magical than working with kids and bringing their imagination to life. And there’s nothing more precious than having a piece of your kid’s imagination hanging on your walls reminding you what your kid was like at a certain age when the picture was created.
So far my son and I have created a few of these pictures based on his own concepts and we will continue doing so.
Life was starting to get shape again. I found love, had a baby girl with my new love and I was getting back into photography after a long hiatus.
But life had another surprise for me. My fiancé passed away at the beginning of January of 2016 and my whole world fell apart. I don’t remember clearly the few first weeks after his passing. My life passed by like a blur and the little energy and life I had left in me, was put into taking care of my two kids. My son was 9 at the time and my little girl was only 17 months old. I was heartbroken, completely broke, with two kids in a city I didn’t choose or like, feeling so lost and lonely.
I sold most of my belongings in a garage sale and we made our way back to Florida.
Words cannot describe how terrified I was of the future. But somewhere in my heart, somehow, I knew things would fall into place and we will be ok.
Remember I told you a while ago about that community of photographers I met through Google plus?
Well, they were then and still are a big part of my journey. They got together and helped me in every possible way. They opened a Gofund me page which helped me to be back on track after my move, they made sure I felt loved, there was always a supportive message on my inbox. With all my heart, I thank every single one of them because they made me believe in myself when I thought everything was lost.
It really moved me how a bunch of strangers from the “interwebs” came together to heal my broken heart. And to be honest, at the end of the days we are not strangers to each other because every day we put a little piece of our lives out there in social media and we create a connection through our art, through our words of encouragement, through our jokes and through our struggle. You start feeling so connected to these people, that you forget you have never really met them in person. Well, I have had the pleasure to meet some of them in conferences and get together and it’s funny because I feel I’ve known them forever. So, when I hear social media is unreal or vain or superficial, I tell my story. I’ve met some of my best friends through social media. And they helped me tremendously to pull through on the hardest days of my life. I hope someday, somehow I’m able to give back to them.
So let’s get back to January 2016. I was told several times to get into treatment to help myself cope with the sadness of my loss. But I refused. I knew there wasn’t a magic pill that was gonna make my sadness go away. I wanted to feel everything I needed to feel. I wanted to cry all the tears I needed to cry. I didn’t want to postpone any of that. I told the universe, here I am, and I’m ready to face it all, no matter how hard it is and how long it takes. And so I did.
I was the crazy woman in target sobbing uncontrollably on Isle 2 holding a Nutella jar.
I was the mom in the carpool line ugly crying with snot bubbles.
I found myself turning back around when I walked in our favorite French bakery because I saw the owner and I knew he was going to ask me for Laurent and I knew the words were not gonna come out, only tears.
I couldn’t watch tv for months because I couldn’t stand the idea of watching the tv shows we used to watch together, now by myself, without listening to his crazy loud laugh.
I’ve haven’t set foot in a racetrack again as much as I love the loud sound of race cars.
I cried every time I drove by a place we’ve been before.
I cried, I cried a lot. But I faced my pain and I still do every single day of my life when I wake up, and when I go to sleep because my bed is always so damn cold.
But I never got rid of my photography equipment. And being in touch with my artistic side has been immensely cathartic.
At first, I didn’t know where to start. Grief has the power of taking away your will and your passion. But I was determined to have my camera back in my hands and I knew it would help me to get through this hard time.
Valentines day 2016.
I went back to my self-portraiture roots. And as Carrie Fisher said “Take that broken heart and turn it into art” I’ve been putting my heart out there. There’s a magical connection between my soul, my heartache and my camera that somehow eases my pain. I know my art is not for everybody. I know some people don’t understand, but my self-portraiture is something I do for myself. If it touches you, if it makes you feel something, fine. If it’s not your cup of tea I’m ok with it too. I’m not here to please anybody. This is something I do for me.
“…And there’s a big part of me that wishes I never met you. I preferred the emptiness in me before I knew it was there” -Beau Taplin.
“Someone I loved once gave me a box of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too was a gift” -Mary Oliver.
Thorns and roses grow on the same tree.
“…And the darkness inside of you can make you feel so small” -Cindy Lauper.
And not everything in my life is darkness. I have two beautiful children that bring so much joy to my life. I’ve been lucky to photograph amazing people. I still have a soul, a sense of humor, curiosity and a sense of wonder that is also reflected in some of my work.
Kindness. It doesn’t cost a damn thing. Sprinkle that shit everywhere!
I don’t like to put myself or my work into little boxes. I like to experiment with everything around me. As I said in the first line, my art is driven by heart, and that’s why I make time from my personal life, parenting, assignments, to play around with my camera and create something for myself, for my own pleasure and joy.
“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” -Jimi Hendrix
I believe each one of us is an artist. You just have to find your artistic side. I was talking recently with a dear friend of mine who is going through a tough time. She was telling me she was so sad she just wanted to lay in bed. I told her to get her butt off that bed and go to a craft store and buy the first thing that catches her eye. Even if it is a coloring book. She laughed and said it was a great idea. That she always fantasized about a more artistic version of herself, being free and careless. And that’s what art does to us. It makes us feel free and careless.
So go and find what makes you feel free and careless and pursue it. Nurture it. Grow together. If you’re lucky to make a profit out of it, great!
Don’t do it for the likes, or to add some more numbers to your social accounts. Do it for yourself. Somebody asked me a few weeks ago why I didn’t have millions of followers. I laughed because I don’t know the answer to that. Maybe I’m not cool enough or fun enough, I don’t know! I don’t really know what the magic approach to get more followers is, and if somehow getting more followers mean sacrificing the human side of my photography, I don’t really want to. My social media pages have lots of photography in it but I also share my experiences, my everyday life, my parenting adventures and that’s a huge part of me that I don’t want to wipe off because it’s part of who I am as an artist. If you make me choose between somebody who only posts gorgeous pictures with the location and camera info and somebody who posts beautiful pictures with relatable stories and a little bit of his/her personal journey. I will definitely pick the second one. I’m not telling you what’s right or wrong, It’s just my personal opinion.
I try to separate as much as I can my personal work, and my client’s work. My self-portraiture is mine. I have total control over it. While in my client work sometimes I have to sacrifice my ideas in order to make the client happy. And that can kill you a little bit inside sometimes. That’s why personal work is so important.
Ice and Fire